Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has cautiously welcomed the announcement that a deal between Jomast and Mears – who took over the asylum seeker accommodation contract on 1 September – has been agreed, ensuring the majority of asylum seekers in the North East will continue be housed where they are.
Alex, who wrote to the Home Secretary in late August, has now received a letter from UK Visas and Immigration Services, outlining the “orderly process” of managing a gradual move of asylum seekers from Jomast to Mears’ managed properties. This work should be completed by the end of 2019.
Those not required to relocate to another property will receive services through the “Mears direct management model”.
In his own letter to the Home Secretary, Alex requested a moratorium on all asylum seekers being sent to Stockton North and the North East region. Following this, Visa and Immigration Services have informed him that a Stockton/North review will be completed by the end of September 2019.
While I welcome this news, and am pleased to see that thousands of people will face minimal disruption as the contract changes over, I will be looking closely at how the agreement in principle set out in the letter matches the reality.
It was hugely disappointing that it took until the final hour for an agreement to be confirmed, largely due to the intransigence of private housing companies. Many people, including myself, told the contractor that they would need robust contingency plans long before they encountered difficulties during these talks, but we were ignored.
Ultimately this contract is about the housing of some of the most vulnerable of people, including children, who have fled from war and oppression. This new arrangement will be judged a success if it ensure that these people are housed without disruption to them and the communities in which they live.